Remembering Fredrick Appleton—George Davis
It all started in October of last year. I was a guest at my friend’s Halloween party over in Cumberland Falls. His home was decorated to the nines. A large black coffin placed on his front lawn was opened by way of an electrical device on his front porch, to show a sleeping vampire. Two white sheets flapped in the early evening’s breeze. Several small hideous creatures danced on the flagstone walk leading to his front door.
I rang the doorbell. After several seconds, the door opened, and Frankenstein looked down on me. With a voice that must have come from his huge black boots said, “Welcome to Disturbia.”
“Hello Johnny,” I said.
“How’d you know it was me?”
“Because Johnny Marshall lives here, and so, you must be Johnny.”
“Brilliant deduction, Sherlock. Come on in, Damien. Make yourself at home. There’s coffee on the table, and some of my wife’s sticky buns.” His wife, Alice is probably the best pastry cook in New England. Her sticky buns are to die for.
The three of us spent the next four hours passing out candy to an assortment of characters, including ghosts, vampires, witches, and a myriad of evil creatures.
Johnny asked, “Hasn’t this been fun, Damien?”
“For you maybe. I hate getting up, running to the door, and then filling the little munchkin pillowcases.”
“Come on, Damien,” Alice said. “Admit it. You enjoyed yourself tonight.”
“Well, maybe a little.”
Then I asked Johnny. “Do you remember Fred Appleton?”
“Come on, Johnny. He worked at Thompson’s Drugstore. He was there for over ten years.”
“I don’t remember him, Damien. Do you Alice?”
“Hey, you guys. You’re kidding me, right?”
“No,” Johnny said. “I do not remember an Appleton. I’ve got good recall, Damien. If there was a Fred Appleton working at Thompson’s Drug, I would remember him.” I could not believe these two native Bickfordians did not remember old Fred. He was indelibly etched in my memory. He walked with a limp. He said it was from a motorcycle accident. However, the story changed several times over the few years I knew him. One time it would be the motorcycle story; the next time it was a wound from his service in Vietnam.
“Don’t you guys remember how many stories Fred told that were impossible for one to achieve in ten lifetimes?”
Johnny said, “Nope, don’t remember him, Damien. How many times do I have to tell you that?”
I stayed until midnight at my friends’ home reminiscing. We grew up in Bickford, Maine during the Eisenhower years.
After finishing the sticky buns and more coffee. I drove home. Bickford was Cumberland Falls sister over the Sagamore River bridge.
The next morning I woke with Fredrick Appleton still on my mind. The last time I remember seeing and talking to him was about nine years ago. He talked about going south, probably Florida for the winter. He was going to join the snowbirds and migrate to the Sunshine State.
As was my custom. I went over to the Wayfarer Diner for breakfast. Winnie, the co-owner and waitress greeted me with a big smile. “Morning, Damien, how are things?”
“How’d you fare last night, many callers?”
“I went over to Johnny and Alice Marshall’s house for the evening. We passed out over two hundred pieces of candy.”
“Wow. We had about ten goblins, ghosts and the like. There wasn’t as many as last year.”
“Hey, Winnie. I’ve got a question for you.”
“What is it?”
“Do you remember, Fred Appleton. He worked for Stan Thompson?”
“I can’t say as I do, Damien. The name doesn’t ring a bell.”
“I thought sure you’d remember him, Winnie. He worked for Stan for over ten years.”
“Nope, I don’t remember him, Damien. Sorry.”
“No one seems to remember him. I can recall Fred. He was like six-two, two hundred pounds of solid muscle. A small mustache on his upper lip, dark brown hair and eyes. A cleft in his chin you could park a jeep in.”
“I’m sorry, Damien.” Her eyebrows did the cha-cha.
“There must be someone in this town who remembers him,” I said.
“Maybe Ned Blake would remember him, Damien. Ned knows everybody. After all, Ned is the town barber.” I ate my breakfast, left Winnie a good tip, and drove over to Ned’s barbershop.
“Morning, Damien, haircut?” I didn’t need a cut; got it styled two weeks ago in Portland. I felt obligated to Ned. If I was going to quiz him, I needed to let him at least trim my hair. I go to a hairstylist in the big city. All of Ned’s customers look alike. He cuts everybody’s hair the same way. Oh, well, I asked him about Fred while he was trimming me up.
“No, I don’t remember him, Damien. Should I?”
“He worked for over ten years for Stan Thompson.”
“I remember Alan Stevens. He worked for Stan for over twenty years.”
“No, I know Alan, but Fred Appleton worked with him at Stan’s.”
“Sorry, Damien. I don’t know this Appleton fellow.”
Could I be dreaming? Did I make this character up? I am a writer, and I have created many personages over the years. Maybe, Fred is—was one of my characters in a short story. It’s the only thing that makes sense since no one seems to know him.
Sitting in my leather recliner, I thought of one more person who might know Fred Appleton, Charlie Hooper. He lives in Portland on Cumberland Avenue. Charlie worked for Stan Thompson while in high school, the same time Fred worked there.
A tall, three-story green apartment building on Cumberland Avenue was the home of Charlie Hooper. The structure was in need of paint. I checked the mailboxes. Charlie was in number 7. I rang the buzzer. “Hello, who is this?”
“It’s me, Charlie, Damien Barlow.” I heard the click of the large metal door. Number seven was at the end of the long hall. There were discarded foam food cartons, a crumpled cigarette package, and enough dirt to fill a sandbox. Charlie’s door stood open and I entered.
“Hello, Charlie. Long time no see,” I said.
“Yeah, Damien, it’s good to see you. How are things in Bickford?”
“The same, Charlie. Nothing ever changes up there.”
“What brings you to Portland, Damien?”
“I wanted to ask you if you remember a man named, Fred Appleton. He worked for Stan Thompson around the same time you worked for him.”
“Fred Appleton? No, afraid not, Damien. Is he in some kind of trouble?”
“No, it’s just that no one seems to remember him.” I told him how Fred’s name had come up at my party, and how no one there recalled him.”
“I’d like to help you, Damien, but I don’t remember him.” After drinking a cup of coffee and eating one of Charlie’s homemade cinnamon rolls. I thanked him and left.
The ride back to Bickford was truly a scenic drive. Leaves changing colors, fields of colorful wildflowers dotted the landscape. Fall, it’s a great time of the year.
With no one left to question. I began the arduous task of reading my manuscripts in search of Fredrick Appleton. I found him on page four of my last short story entitled, Roam Not Rome.
I wrote this story last November. I sat pondering my epistle. Why couldn’t I remember creating that character?
Fred Appleton was a suspect in the murder of Antonio Como, an Italian lawyer. It was my first attempt at writing a story outside the country. It was a successful adventure with great reviews.
Mystery solved, I fell into my recliner and into the arms of Morpheus.
“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”
― J.M. Barrie